As I rapidly spiral into full-blown adulthood, there are a few things I’ve learned as a musician. These three tips can also apply to other fields of art, but these things I’ve learned over the last decade of writing and performing music.
1) Never trash an incomplete creation. I have an inventory of pieces saved on my computer. Some of those projects are near completion; some are just clips and snippets. But I always save anything I create. Here’s why.
For starters, I now have a large selection of things to choose from and revisit in the scenario that I lack inspiration to create something new. I also use this library when collaborating with other musicians. Example: in my latest music project, I sent our vocalist a clip that I had previously written and recorded. I liked it but had no idea where to go from there. So, I sent it to him, and he gave me an idea that resulted in my proudest work to date. If I had trashed that piece out of frustration, we wouldn’t have this beautiful song now.
You never know when or where inspiration will come from, so always hold onto the things that you haven’t finished. Always.
2. Never. Stop. Creating. You absolutely MUST put in the effort, and sometimes you won’t be in the mood to. I, and many others, have over romanticized the process of artistic creation. How many times have you heard “you can’t force it.” That’s a lie. I find myself writing some of my best material when I force myself to try despite not being in the mood and feeling uninspired.
If it has been a while since you’ve created anything, sit down and force yourself to. It may seem like a chore in that moment, but get out your instruments or paint etc, and make something. It may be awful; it may be the best you’ve ever done. But you’ll never grow as an artist, if you neglect your talent because you’re “not in the mood.” Sometimes a lack of ideas and motivation can lead to something really pleasant.
3. Know when to stop and give it a rest. This is similar to the whole “patience is a virtue” cliché.
If you’re hitting a brick wall with something you’re working on and you’re not sure where to go from there, just stop. Put it aside. Do not listen to/look at this unfinished project for a few days. Then revisit it.
The longer you sit and stare at something, the more you’ll become disgruntled with it. It’ll stop making sense. Take the word “California”, for example, write it down, stare at it, say it over and over again. You’ll trick yourself into believing it’s spelled wrong or that you’re pronouncing it incorrectly. Your art is the same way.
Much like “California”, if you leave it alone for a little while and then come back to it, suddenly it makes sense again. I find myself doing this often. I’ll get frustrated with a new project, leave it alone, come back a few days later, and work on it again. It’ll be refreshing and of better quality than you remember. You’ll find it easier to finish the project.
In some cases, you’ll feel unsatisfied with a project that is complete. Do the same thing. Ignore it for a few days, and then check it out again. You’ll find your work much more satisfying if you give the senses a chance to refresh before giving it another look.
Photo Credit: Jae Murphy